To nourish your mind as well as your body

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Satisfying April Fool's Day Meal

You know what to expect here, right? I mean... really. So here's a couple little tricks that you can play on your friends if you want. :)

Jello Juice 
Okay. This is the easiest "prank" ever.

1 package strawberry or lemon flavored Jello
miniscule amount of either strawberry or cranberry juice (for the strawberry) or lemonade (for the lemon)

Follow the package directions and then, instead of pouring the Jello into a mold or tin, pour it into a clear juice glass with just a tiny bit of juice poured in on top of it. Insert a drinking straw and put in the refrigerator to set. Then, when someone asks for something to drink, pull out the glass and watch them try to get that juice out. :) [If you're concerned about top texture, you can add a little more juice on top the jello before you serve it.]

Protein Cupcakes
This one could be really mean, so don't pull this on your veggie or vegan friends... Remember, April Fool's is about playful pranks and is not an excuse to be recklessly cruel to people.

2 lbs lean ground chuck
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Either Velveeta or blue cheese, melted, and mixed with a cheerful food coloring. Spread liberally on top.

Set your oven to 350F. Place opaque muffin papers into a muffin tin.

Mix the "cupcake" ingredients together in a large bowl - if you have a food processor, blend them first. Then divide the "batter" into the muffin papers. Bake for about an hour, or until the meat reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees. Take out and allow to cool to room temp, then place in the fridge.

Next, make your icing. If you use the blue cheese, you'll want to blend it so that it's a smooth texture. I'd use something innocuous like pink or blue for the coloring so it's more innocent looking. Once it's nice and gooey, spread it liberally on top of the "cupcakes" and return to the fridge to cool again.

Serve with pride. :)

April Fool's Day

Everybody loves April Fool's Day. Personally, I love it because it's my uncle Johnny's birthday. Everybody say 'Happy birthday, Danielle's Uncle John!'

I've gotten off topic. Let me start again. Everyone mischievous loves April Fool's Day. It is the one day a year (other than Halloween) where pranking your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers is socially accepted and even laudable. But where did this very odd holiday come from?

Well. There's no real answer to this one. Here's a few options.

In 1392, Chaucer wrote 'The Canterbury Tales'. In the 'Nun's Priest's Tale' (a tale about two foolish fools), a vain cock called Chauntecler is tricked by a fox when "March bigan thritty dayes and two" - a statement which some take to mean April 1 or March 32nd. However, most Chaucer scholars take the quote to mean 'thirty two days after March', which would, in fact, be May 2nd - the anniversary of Richard II's engagement to Anne of Bohemia. Either makes about the same amount of sense to me.

In 1508, a french poet - Eloy d'Amerval - wrote a poem entitled "Le Livre de la Deablerie"(trans. The Book of Mischief) in which Satan and Lucifer have a chat about their wickedness and laud each other on their mutual evil deeds. The poem includes the line "maquereau infame de maint homme et de mainte femme, poisson d'avril," which according to my translation means to "the man who prays is a loathesome mackerel [could be slang for pimp] and the woman who prays is an April fish." [If I got that wrong, please let me know, but that's what my internal French compass guided me to.] The term 'April fish' is the french term for 'April fool' (Don't give me that look. They call each other potatoes on the freeway!), but whether Eloy was talking about April 1st or not could be anyone's guess.

In 1539, Eduard de Dene (a Flemish writer) published a comical poem called "Refereyn vp verzendekens dach Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach." I know. I laughed too. This translates, according to the internet, to "Refrain on errand-day which is the first of April". Judging from the poem's description, it sounds more like the plot to a commedia dell'arte play than a poem, but here you are: a nobleman hatches a plan to send his servant back and forth on absurd errands on April 1st. And ends with the line "I am afraid that you are trying to make me run a fool's errand." [This information comes from the Museum of Hoaxes, if you're curious.] Whether he intended it or not, it does look like Eduard has the first solid reference to April 1st pranks in literature. Congratulations, Eddie!

There is a legend that the Duke of Lorraine and his wife used the tradition of April 1st to their advantage by disguising themselves as peasants and escaping their prison at Nantes in the guise of peasants. When people saw them and recognized them and rushed to tell the guards, the guards simply shrugged assuming this was an April Fool's joke.

The first historical note on April Fool's Day as a holiday is noted in John Aubrey's "Remains of Gentilism and Judaism", written in 1686 - "Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere." And so it was.

And so it is. Now if only I were better at sneaky pranks. Hmm....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What a Weekend!

Thanks to those of you who sent me supportive calls and texts yesterday and today. It's been an interesting weekend. Though this was not, by any means, the first time I've been injured as the result of acting, it was the first time I landed an ER visit from an audition. My first concussion that I know of. :) Huzzah to my over-excitable demeanor!

I also haven't written up a fun recipe for you guys in a while! Shame on me! I will do so this week! My friend Renata who works at Farm Fresh To You is hooking me up with some fruits and veggies tomorrow, and once I see what I'm getting, I'll come up with something yummy. In the meanwhile, here's a fun little picture of my aunt Carolyn's rendition of my Garbanzo Poppers:

That's me!

Also, if you live in the LA area, my show Heartsgaard is going up for the next few Sundays at Cafe Muse, which is an awesome little cafe on Santa Monica Blvd. with fabulous sweet potato fries and iced chai. Showtimes are on the website. :)

Back with regularly scheduled programming soon!

Have a peace!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Black Velvet and Colcannon (St. Patrick's Day feast)

Now, I know, I usually do food recipes for the holidays, but I mean... it's St. Patrick's Day! C'mon!

So I'm switching it up a bit and starting with a drink.

Black Velvet
A Black Velvet is my favorite way to celebrate St. Patrick's baptism of the Irish. This recipe makes 2 pints.

1 pint Irish stout (Guinness, Murphy's, or Beamish - not Harp)
1 pint champagne

Chill both. Combine in a large glass jug. Stir. Pour into pre-chilled tall glasses. Drink. Repeat.

Slainte. :)

Now, colcannon is traditionally Halloween fare in Ireland, but it's my favorite "pub-at-home" food so here you go. :) Makes about 4 servings.

1 lb kale (or green cabbage if you can't find kale)
1/2 pt water
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1.5 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup skim milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Simmer kale (or cabbage) in the water and oil for 10 minutes.
Drain thoroughly, chop finely.
Boil potatoes and carrots in the same pot until tender.
Put milk and onion into a saucepan and cook lightly.
Drain the potatoes and carrots and mash them together. Add the onion, milk, and cooked kale to the carrot/potato mash. Mash and mix some more. :)
Serve warm. Enjoy!

[These recipes are from a book called "The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish", with alterations.]

St. Patrick's Day

Ah, Guinness Day. I mean...*cough* St. Patrick's Day. (Or "La Fheile Padraig", if you're feeling particularly Irish.) This well-known Irish holiday is celebrated on March 17th and is accompanied by a mountain of traditions that have very little to do with it's origins. When most people think of St. Patrick's Day, they think of green beer and getting pinched.

"But what's the real story?" you ask. Well. I'll tell you.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland (my favorite county, God bless them all). Patrick, born Maewyn Succat, was not Irish by birth - he was the son of a Roman-British army officer and was born in either Scotland or Roman-England. However, when he was a small child, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. Six years later, he began to have dreams where he saw and spoke to God. According to his autobiography - "The Confessio" - it was in these dreams that God told him how to escape on a getaway ship.

When he did escape, he went to Britain and then to France. There, he studied under the bishop of Auxerre as a monk for twelve years. He became a bishop, and soon began to have dreams that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. So, with the Pope's blessing, Bishop Patricius (his Romanized name) returned to Ireland to convert the Gaelic-Irish. He journeyed the whole isle, baptizing the pagans to Catholicism and actively preaching. He established monasteries, schools, and churches. He was so successful, in fact, that he severely upset the Celtic Druids and was thrown in prison several times. Every time, he escaped.

Those are the recorded facts. Now what about the shamrocks and the snakes? What about the leprechauns??

According to legend, St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Catholic Trinity (father, son, holy ghost) to the Gaels.

As for the snakes, St. Patrick apparently put the curse of God on all the venomous snakes in Ireland. This curse drove all the snakes into the sea, where they drowned.

Now. Leprechauns.

The leprechaun's name may have its origins either in the gaelic "leath bhrogan", meaning "shoe-maker" or "luacharma'n", meaning "pygmy" or "small bodied man". Either way, he is a short, cranky faerie in the Celtic tradition. Leprechauns were responsible for mending the shoes of other fairies (you can understand why they were cranky!), but they were also known for their tricks and riddles, which they used to protect their ancient treasure (gold coins and jewels left behind by the Danes when they marauded through Ireland). Honestly, St. Patrick would probably roll over in his grave to think of his very Catholic holiday being forever linked to pagan folklore.

Bishop Patricius died on March 17, AD 461 and that day has been commemorated ever since as St. Patrick's Day. Originally, the holiday was to celebrate the baptism of the Irish, however - like most holy days - it grew more secular over time. This holiday, set right in the middle of Catholic Lent (a time of repentance and prohibition), allowed the Irish a break from solemnity in which to feast and drink and dance. Actually, up to the 1970s, all that drinking and dancing had to be done at home - Irish law mandated that pubs be closed on March 17th.

In 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism. Personally, I think they missed the boat a little bit on that one. St. Patrick's Day had already been an international holiday for a long time!

In 1962, city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that their green dye could be put to a more entertaining use. That year, they poured 100 lbs of vegetable dye into the river. The Chicago River was green for a week. These days, for environmental reasons, only 40 lbs of dye are used and the river remains green only for a few hours.

Slainte! An bhfuil tu are meisce fos?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bad Ass Yamekins

My mom calls me a "sweet potato kid". Apparently, when I was in the womb, sweet potatoes always made me rumble around in her tummy like a happy kitten. You can take the girl out of the womb, but sweet potatoes still make me grin like a loon.

So, I had a satchel of small sweet potatoes from TJ's and was in a savory snack mood. Plus, I have friends who don't like bananas or raisins.... What to do, what to do... Oh! Right! Invent cookies!

These are easy, healthy, and delicious. They require no tools more complicated than a fork. You're welcome. :)

Bad Ass Yamekins
(makes ~35 cookies)

4-5 small sweet potatoes, baked (makes about 1.5 cups sweet potatoes, mashed with a fork)
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup egg whites
1/8 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sliced almonds (toasted, unsalted)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Paper a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scrub the sweet potatoes well, lightly brush the outsides with olive oil and lay them on the cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

When the potatoes are cooled, remove the skins. [Sweet potato skins are a yummy snack. You can munch them as you cook or set them in a bowl in the fridge for later. Nom nom.]

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Place the peeled potatoes in a large mixing bowl, mash with fork. Add the cinnamon. Stir. Add the honey. Stir. (Make sure each time you stir that you're combining the elements well and leaving no lumps.) Add the almond meal and flax seed meal. Mix well. Add the coconut oil and egg whites. Stir. Add the baking powder. Mix until well combined. Add the agave nectar. Stir. *If you want, you can use a hand mixer, but I simply used a fork and whisked it through the mixture firmly and that turned out fantastic.

Once you've got your "batter" all mushy and blended, add the sliced almonds and mix with your fork until they're all through the mixture.

Paper two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using the same mixing fork, drop one scoopful of the mixture, separated by about an inch. They won't expand outward.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven; let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for about 10 minutes. Then remove to a drying rack to finish cooling the rest of the way. Enjoy! 

I was so excited about how these turned out, I dragged Janet out and made her try one. They have been approved by taste buds other than my own. These are simply awesome. Soft, moist, not too sweet. And best of all: there's no flour, no butter, and you get the protein from the eggs and the antioxidants, vitamin A, and vitamin C from the sweet potatoes. Crazy, right?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunflower Bites

Another pair of bananas going dead, so I had no choice. I was forced to make breakfast cookies once more. Now, there's just no point in repeating a recipe when I'm always trying to think of new, interesting recipes to share with you, so I decided to go a little off script for this. 

Sunflower Bites

2 bananas
2 heaping spoonfuls of crunchy sunbutter (This is sunflower butter. Delicious!)
1/8 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup rolled oats
1/8 cup almond meal
1/8 cup flaxseed meal
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup golden raisins (alternatives: diced apricots, dried cranberries, dried cherries)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Paper two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mash two bananas. Stir in sunbutter, honey, and vanilla until well combined. Add pumpkin pie spice. Stir. Add almond and flaxseed meal. Stir. Add in raisins (or alt of your choice) and rolled oats.

Using a large spoon, scoop one large spoonful at a time on to the cookie sheets, leaving the scoops a couple inches apart. Flatten the cookie scoops with a fork.

Bake for about 16 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lemon Cashew Cream Pie

My cousin Kelly signed me up for this wicked awesome magazine - the Vegetarian Times (thank you, Kelly!!). In the February issue, Lauren Ulm (author of the awesome blog VeganYumYum) offered a recipe for vegan Key Lime Pie, which sounded awesome. Except I didn't have any limes, and it seemed that my brain was categorically opposed to letting me remember I needed them when I went to the store. And I couldn't find cream of coconut (apparently I was supposed to go to BevMo or something to find this). And I'm not a huge fan of cornstarch, so I replaced that too.... Anyway, here is a mild (and delicious!) variation on the recipe's theme.

Lemon Cashew Cream Pie
(10 servings)

1.5 cups crushed vegan graham crackers
1/4 cup earth balance spread, melted (or other suitable vegan butter substitute - check the label)
1/4 cup agave nectar

1 cup coconut milk (remember to shake well before opening the can)
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
7 oz extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 1 tbsp
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp grated fresh lemon zest, plus 1 tsp dried lemon zest

To make the crust-
Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together the mashed graham crackers, earth balance, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and agave nectar in a bowl. Press mixture into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Place crust in the freezer while oven preheats. Bake crust 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

To make the filling-
Put coconut milk, cashews, tofu, lemon juice, flax seed meal, agave nectar, and lemon zest in a food processor; blend until very smooth. Transfer the filling to a saucepan and warm over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until the filling thickens.
Spread the filling into the crust. Chill 4 hours before serving.

This is a delicious, creamy pie with just a tinge of citrusy delight. Yum yum!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Goulash Nosh

 Every week, my friend Janet and I get together and I teach her how to make a new recipe. Tonight, I decided to show her a nice, easy en-masse meal. My friend Alex gave me her Greek grandmother's goulash recipe about a year ago and I've been playing with it ever since. This is delicious, easy to make in big batches, filling, high in protein, and surprisingly healthy.

Goulash Nosh
(~8 servings)

1.5 cups creamy tomato soup (Red pepper and tomato soup would probably be really good too!)
2/3 cup garden patch juice (alternatives: tomato juice or V8)
8 ounces vegetable rotini pasta
1/2 red onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped into bite-size bits
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
2 tsp agave nectar
salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 lb ground turkey meat
1 handful light, shredded 3-cheese, plus more if you want
1 tbsp grapeseed oil

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

In a large stock pot, brown onions and turkey meat with 1 tbsp grapeseed oil over medium high heat. When the meat is fully cooked, drain the grease.

Add noodles to the stock pot. Add soup and juice. Stir. Add carrots; simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add agave nectar. Stir. Add garbanzo beans. Stir. Simmer for 2-4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add handful of cheese and mix it well with the rest. Tap down, sprinkle a teensy bit of cheese over the top. Put a lid on the pot, lower heat to medium-low. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Enjoy. :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Guilt-Free T.C.

Due to the fact that I expect to be rather busy for the next few days, I decided to make a casserole to tide me through the coming week. And then I realized, hey! I haven't showed you guys any of my wicked fun casserole dishes. So you, my friends, are in for a treat. This dish makes about 8-10 servings. It's delicious, wholesome, guilt-free, and utterly satisfying. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed inventing it. :)

Guilt-Free Tuna Casserole
(Serves 8-10)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs
8 oz vegetable rotini pasta (this pasta is made from compressed veggies and is super delicious)
olive oil cooking spray
3 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and diced
1 head cauliflower
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp almond meal
1 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 cup water
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and diced
~14.8 oz canned tuna - unsalted, packed in water, drained
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
~1 Tbsp dried dill (make sure it's finely minced)
~1 Tbsp low-fat Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a stockpot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Dice a head of cauliflower into 1-2 inch florets, including as much of the stalk as you can manage without adding the green parts. Set these out over a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, spray gently with olive oil cooking spray and dust lightly with milled sea salt (or kosher). Put this in the oven to bake, should take between 30-40 minutes, until just beginning to brown on the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a large stockpot (the bigger the better, within reason) over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Mist with olive oil cooking spray and add celery and onion. Saute for 2 minutes or until onions become translucent.

In a small bowl (I used a tea cup), combine the almond and flax seed meals.

Add chicken broth, water, and the mix of almond meal and flax seed meal; whisk briskly until it begins to go frothy. [This, by the way, is my cheat to making a healthy roux (or thickener). I think you can also use this to make homemade "cream" sauces, though - considering I just made it up - I have not yet tested this.] Reduce heat to medium. Stir in drained pasta, carrots, tuna, and peas. Add dill. Remove from heat.

By now, your cauliflower should be done roasting. Take it out and load the entire head's worth of little roasted pieces into a food processor. (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a food mill, a potato ricer (these are so awesome!), or at the most rudimentary a potato masher.) Puree the cauliflower until it's well mushed (yes, that's my technical term); add the minced garlic and puree again. Now dump the contents of your food processor into the bowl full of tuna stew. Stir until well combined. It should take on a thick, glutinous consistency.

Pour tuna-pasta-cauliflower mixture into a 11.5 x 15 inch casserole dish (preferably glass). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and a light dusting of Parmesan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until browned on top. Remove and serve hot.

For storage, cover tightly with saran wrap (or put it into a casserole container with a sealing lid like I do) and put it in the fridge. It will keep for about 5 days. If you want it to last for 7 or 8, cut a portion off, seal it, and put it in the freezer, leaving the rest in the fridge. 

Note: This recipe might seem a little low on salt, if you're used to cooking and eating with it. As you may have noticed, I barely use any when I cook, so my tongue isn't super sensitive to it when it's missing. To me, this dish is perfect in its garlicky, mushy, delicious comfort foody way. I'd say taste test before you transfer it to your baking dish, just to make sure you'll be happy. And if you must add more salt, be sparing with it. The less you use, the more you'll get used to not using it, and then you'll eventually find that you don't miss it at all. :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Haiku

梅白し月光は人あたためず  渡辺純枝
ume shiroshi gekkô wa hito atatamezu
white plum blossoms
the moon light does not warm
a person
Sumie Watanabe